MT Football Press Conference Quotes

September 29, 2003 · MT Media Relations
Coming out of an off week, we feel like we got some things done. We spent three good, solid days improving in areas where we felt we needed to improve the most. Number one, we talked a lot on finishing games. If we had finished games, we could have given ourselves some better opportunities. Now we're getting ready for our fourth BCS member, Temple, which will come in here [having played] a tough schedule. They have lost some close games, including a close one to Louisville this past weekend. They went to triple overtime with Cincinnati, had another double overtime game, and played Penn State in another close game, so we know what caliber of team we're playing. Defensively, they're physical and they run well to the ball. They've been in the top 20 nationally in defense the last two years and it looks like they've got another top 20 defense again this year. Offensively, they have a 6-6 quarterback who throws it well. He'll be another in a long line of good quarterbacks we've seen that executes well. I think they threw it 58 times last week against Louisville and, I think, 48 times the week before. They've got receivers that catch the ball well and their offensive line is physical. It will be a physical football game against a team from the Big East coming here. We know what kind of a football game this is going to be. They're a well-coached team under Coach [Bobby] Wallace. A lot of coaches on my staff know Coach Wallace [from his time] at North Alabama and the great programs he had there. We know the challenge we have in front of us. We've got to have a great week of work to get ready for our last non-conference game.

McCollum on Temple QB Mike McGann: He'll get out and run some, but he wants to throw the football. He's athletic enough to run, so we have to take care of our rush lanes. He's made some key runs for them this year. He's a big guy and he makes good decisions. He's thrown for a lot of yards since he's been there. They spread the field and they're wide open. [They have] good receivers. [Phil] Goodman is a 6-3 guy and [Zamir] Cobb makes great plays and he's a great returner. Their backs are big and physical and their line is big and physical. But the quarterback executes really well. Their backup is a kid we watched in junior college from Dodge City where one of our players, Leon Cesar, is from, so we know what kind of talent he has. They do some good things and he makes some good throws. After coming off of games against the quarterbacks we've seen, it's hard to imagine that we would see a fourth one, but now we are. We'll have our work cut out for us.

McCollum on his team's offensive improvement: They've played against some good defensive football teams over the past few weeks. We still have to learn to finish drives. When you watch film, what we don't want to do as players on Sunday or Monday is say 'I wish I would have done this' or 'If I would have done this' or 'If I would have done that.' You don't get those opportunities back and that [goes] for the whole football team. There are certain things we have to improve on to finish drives. We had some opportunities last week to finish drives. If we could have made a play here or there to stay on the field, our entire season would be different right now. We just have to keep growing as an offense and keep getting better from week to week. Our offensive line has continued to improve each week. We're not where we want to be yet, but I think we've found the right combination now. I have been pleased with the way we have run the football and taken care of the football. Our receivers continue to grow and make strides. Kerry Wright has made a lot of big plays and Jerrin Holt has been making big plays for us. We get Chris Henry back this week and, hopefully, Pedro Holliday will be back healthy.

McCollum on Temple: I think they're a lot better football team than their record shows, just like I think our football team is better than our record indicates. We have got to learn how to finish and continue taking care of the football. We've got to find ways to get off the field on defense and create turnovers. Temple, if you just go back and look at whom they have played and how they played them, they've had a chance to win every game they've played. Their record is no indication of what kind of team they have.

McCollum on returning to Floyd Stadium: It'll be good, if we learn how to win at home. Last time we didn't execute the way we felt like we should, but after the road trips we've been on the last three weeks and the environments we've been in, it feels great to get an opportunity to get back home, and playing a team the caliber of Temple is going to be a big challenge for us. But, to be back on our home turf, we are excited about that. Now, we just need to go represent [the university] better.

McCollum on players that will return to the lineup this week: Willie Hall will be back and we should have Dennis Burke back. He's been practicing all week. Bobby Payne will be back, who we missed last week, so we should be at full strength.

McCollum on hoping fans will give his team another chance at home: Our fans were no more disappointed than the players and coaches in that locker room after our last home game. But, I think we've seen a team go on the road against Georgia, Clemson, and Missouri and improve each week, give itself a chance to win games each week, and work their tails off representing Middle Tennessee. So, hopefully we'll have a great crowd. We're hoping to. I know the places we went into were great environments, and we got to quiet a few of them. It was quiet at Georgia at halftime, and at Missouri it was quiet the whole game. Hopefully, we'll get a crowd that will work to our advantage. Our kids are working very hard and want to play well at home. Home has always been good to us. We're excited about being home and being in front of our fans. I know any time you go through a tough time like we did in the first one, you've got people that jump in and jump out, but that's part of it. We look forward to coming out and playing as well as we can play.

McCollum on what hosting a BCS team means to the program: I think it's big for the University. To have a team the caliber of Temple come in here for the first time in this school's history is a positive for our program. We know we have to have a great week of work to be able to go against them.

McCollum on what the last three weeks has meant to his team: I think they can see on film how close they are to being a good football team. I think in a lot of areas they are a good football team, it just doesn't show in the win-loss column yet. What we have to do is learn how to win and execute the things [it takes to win]. When you think about it, finishing blocks, finishing drives, making the plays, making tackles, and doing those things right [means] we have a good football team sitting here. We've got another tough challenge. We've got to improve on what we did on these road trips. Now, we've got another opponent that's a lot like some of these teams we've played.

McCollum on what his improved defensive line means to the overall defensive scheme: We've seen some good throwing quarterbacks and this one is like the other ones we've seen in that he throws it well. The game may end at midnight. He'll throw it around everywhere and his receivers do a tremendous job of making plays. They have big, tall receivers [that are] physical guys. They protect well up front. I think they're well coached on the offensive line. Hopefully we've learned and we're better from what we've seen. When you play a David Green or a [Charlie] Whitehurst or a Brad Smith that brings both dimensions to you it will, hopefully, prepare you to go against a 6-6 guy with receivers that make plays kind of like the teams you've seen before.

McCollum on containing McGann: Like anyone else, you've got to get pressure [on him]. You've got to make him make some bad throws. If he sits in there, he can throw it well. We've got to get some pressure on him and get him moving around some. And, we've got to do a great job in coverage. We've got to do a good job disguising and doing some things to present him some problems and not just let him sit back and throw the football.

McCollum on OL Julius Gant: I think Coach [Ronnie] Vinklarek has done a great job with that group. The biggest thing with that group is finding the right combination for what we do, and Julius has played right tackle, left tackle, and now he's playing guard for us. But, that' s what a good athlete can do. Not everyone can play every position on the offensive line. That's a plus for him. Julius is a smart guy and it wouldn't have ever been done if we felt like he couldn't have learned. Not all of the guys we have could have learned it. He's a guy we knew we could move and would strengthen us wherever we put him. He's a team player and he's grown up a lot in the last year or two. I think he's gotten better each week there, and [the move] has made the offensive line better.

OL Julius Gant on the importance of gaining confidence before starting conference play: It's very important. I think if we can get a win if we come out ready to play and execute. If we do those things, then we go into conference play with a lot of confidence and we keep building on that confidence so we can have a championship and go to the New Orleans Bowl and win it. That's our main goal, that's what we're looking for. A win at home against Temple would definitely put us over the edge as far as getting that confidence goes.

RB Eugene Gross on playing three straight games on the road: It made the team come together. We had some games where the offense didn't play too well and some games where the defense didn't play too well, but we're getting back-to-back with each other and playing for each other. That's the key to becoming a good team.

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